Andy Warhol was an artistic con. Bored by convention or the status quo but ultimately lacking the talent to create original art, Warhol was trapped. From soup cans to Marilyn Monroe he presented images but added little else. However, Warhol made the best of his "prison." New York arts' patrons fell all over themselves in a big way and made Warhol exceedingly wealthy, paying huge sums for his banal creations. But Warhol did possess an odd tongue-in-cheek quirkiness that was entertaining to have around. That's a good way to look at the Dandy Warhols - except these Warhols are far more accessible.
Dandy Warhols were like troopers from another era. Had they been around in the late-'60s they probably would have been happy as a jangling opening act for Warhol's semi-creation, the Velvet Underground.
Former Beauty Stab drummer Courtney Taylor-Taylor launched the Dandy Warhols in Portland, OR. Taylor-Taylor switched to guitar/vocals in '92 when he teamed up with keyboardist Zia McCabe, guitarist Peter Holmstrom and drummer Eric Hedford, who was later replaced by Brent DeBoer.
"Dandys Rule, OK?" was released on an indie label as the Warhols went out on tour with Love and Rockets ("I'm Alive"). The old word-of-mouth thing led to a major label battle for the group's services. Capitol Records won and "The Dandy Warhols Come Down" was issued in '97. The track "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth" received a fair amount of attention.
Featuring "Bohemian Like You" and "Godless" the CD "Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia" was released in '01. Taylor-Taylor wrote all the songs with Holmstrom co-writing the last track, "Gospel." Gregg Williams co-produced the album with Taylor-Taylor. "Welcome To The Monkey House" arrived in '03.
Just prior to the release of the Dandy Warhols '08 album "Earth To The Dandy Warhols," on their own Beat The World Records, their manager Lee Cohen was quoted saying, "We were totally done dealing with major-label incompetence."
It's always sad when a group, especially one with a strong indie creed, like the Dandy Warhols, sours on their major label relationship. In the beginning, label reps love the band and don't want to change them - just bring them to a wider audience. But being a hot band in the northwest, southeast, California or Texas doesn't always translate nationally - not without some significant changes. The label wants to sell CDs and the group wants to express itself artistically. Often those two desires fail to intersect. It doesn't help when the band continues to display its quirky tendencies by naming their albums "Welcome To The Monkey House" or '05's "Odditorium Or Warlords Of Mars." They're clever titles that certainly appealed to the faithful but likely did little to broaden the group's audience. Obscure references to Edgar Rice Burroughs' sci-fi novels didn't help either.
The funny thing about label types is once they smell failure - or even that a band is not living up to expectations - they cut and run. Nobody wants to be tied to a loser - that's a career ender. A group is left to wonder where all those friendly faces have gone and why calls go unanswered/unreturned. Hard feelings are inevitable on both sides. So the Dandy Warhols took control of their destiny and started their own label.
"Dandy Warhols Come Down" sold much better in the UK (three, count 'em three, charting singles) than in the States. However, the follow-up, "Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia," made a dent in the U.S. Both CDs are excellent and well worth owning. "Dandys Rule, OK?" is like many indie efforts - rough around the edges with energy overriding inspiration. In some cases that's preferred; just depends on perspective.
Touring with Love & Rockets in the Dandy Warhols' early days must have made an impression. "Welcome To The Monkey House" sounds like the album Love & Rockets" should have made way back when. This is an intimate, captivating album that still kicks. Pop Rocker "We Used To Be Friends" and the mid-tempo riff driven "Plan A" immediately stand out. But the cheery "Wonderful You" (wonderful you, the dope you are") and the "monkey house" backing vocals on "The Dandy Warhols Love Almost Everyone" put the album over. "Hit Rock Bottom" sounds like an alternate version of "I'm Alive." Nothing really wrong with that. "Welcome To The Monkey House" is a great record and a lot of fun.
The songs on "Odditorium Or Warlords Of Mars" continue the Dandy Warhols' trademark casual, 'my-guard-is-down' appeal that is hard to resist - but why try? The R&B tinged "Smoke It," the rollicking "Down Like Disco" and the clever "Love Is The New Feel Awful" are inventive and intelligent, lyrically and musically, without being stuffy.
"Earth To The Dandy Warhols" is a typically oddball collection. They vault from the retro-80s "Mission Control," accompanied by what could have been an Ed Wood directed space video, to "Love Song" featuring contributions from such mainstays as guitarist Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) and Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) on dobro. Around those tracks, the group presents Alt. Rockers and even a shoegazer- the appropriately titled "Wasp In The Lotus."